XXL Magazine tweeted out a picture of albums from 2011 today and asked rap fans to pick three.
It pulled from the archives an album containing some of Kanye West’s and Jay-Z’s best work of all time, and by far the duo’s best work this decade: Watch the Throne.
In 2011, Kanye West and Jay-Z were untouchable. Both were vying for dominance as rappers and entrepreneurs.
The album seemed to be a declaration that Kanye and Jay-Z were too great to be on a project with anyone less.
Since their paths have diverged, Kanye has sputtered into a strange creative whirlpool. “Life of Pablo” (2016) was an interesting concept: an album continually changing in the new streaming era.
But instead of building off what it did well, he hurried into his Summer of G.O.O.D music, producing a new album with various artists every month.
The event gave us a host of unfinished work. He followed this up with his “Jesus is King” album, which has made for fascinating sound bites, but mostly forgettable music.
Jay-Z has faired better, barely. He released “Magna Carta Holy Grail” in 2013, which didn’t even make his own top 5. He followed that with a very serious “4:44” in 2017.
Then came “Everything is Love” in 2018, which felt more like an attempt to patch his marriage with Beyonce than a good album. None of these albums will be remembered as a seminal work. And they definitely aren’t on par with “Watch the Throne.”
In short, these two artistically peaked nearly a decade ago with “Watch the Throne” before getting pulled in a million directions by their ever-increasing success.
In this masterpiece, an unlikely duo creates an album that captures some of their young, aggressive styles from past works, while still issuing the confidence gained from their more recent accomplishments.
The music holds songs that will try and muscle you into submission, like “Ni**as in Paris,” while finding softer R&B blends in tracks like “Made in America” or falling back on classic sounds like the James Brown undertones in “New Day.”
It blends this all together as two of the art’s greats push and pull for supremacy over the album. But that fight between Jay-Z and Kanye West to outdo one another push both into some of their best work.
So, for once, Twitter did us some good by bringing this delightful album back to the forefront of our minds. Unfortunately, it also reminded us how much these stars have faded.
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